Astronomers at universities in California and Virginia in the US have been able to take advantage of a rare orbital alignment in order to make this observation.
This is how astronomers observed lava waves in Io’s largest volcanic crater, one of Jupiter’s moons, also the largest planet in the solar system, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
This team of astronomers from the universities of California and Virginia in the United States took advantage of a rare orbital alignment that occurred on March 8, 2015, between Io and Europa, another of Jupiter’s moons, in order to obtain the as detailed map as possible of the lava lake of the largest volcanic crater in Io, the Loki Patera.
The Moon Io, is considered to be the celestial body with more volcanic activity of all the Solar System.
In the year 2015, Europa, the smallest of the four moons of Jupiter already discovered by the astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610, passed just in front of Io, thus blocking gradually the light coming from the volcanic moon.
Since the surface of Europe is ice-clad, it reflects very little sunlight at the infrared wavelength, thus allowing astronomers to isolate with immense precision the heat emanating from the volcanoes located on the surface of Io.
Thus, infrared data have indicated, according to a University of California statement released this week, that the surface temperature of Loki Patera has steadily increased from one end to the other, suggesting that lava formed two waves, each with “Sweep” the crater in the direction of West to East and “travel” a distance of approximately one kilometer per day.
The Loki Patera crater is about 200 kilometers in diameter.
All images of Loki Patera were captured through the Great Binocular Telescope, installed in the mountains of Arizona, United States.